February 16, 2008

Photo of the Week: Feb. 17, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT – The road up to Mt. Hermon, the highest point in Israel, wraps around this hill, affording gracious views of this 13th-century fortress from both above and below. I arrived early enough to catch the eastern flank illuminated by the first light of the day. I continued to shoot until the sun rose above the horizon and threw warm light onto the stones. I prefer this earlier shot, however, because I like the blue and purple hues of the Hula Valley stretching out in the distance. Once the sun got a little higher, those colors were replaced by a white haze and the contrast between the light on the fortress and the trees was too great for my camera to handle. Exposing properly for the stones caused the trees to turn black and lose much of their detail, which is preserved in this lower contrast image. I would normally try to avoid centered compositions, but the triangular shape of the hill gives the photo a solid foundations to rest upon. The triangle is one of the strongest compositional shapes and I look for them in a variety of photos, from landscapes to group portraits.

February 10, 2008

Photo of the Week: Feb. 10, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Israel turns the corner very quickly from winter to spring, a season highlighted by vivid displays of wildflowers throughout the country. Beginning in mid-February and continuing well into May, a variety of colorful wildflowers make their appearance in Israel following the winter rains. I had the good fortune to pass this site while en route to a beach along Israel's southern coast near Ashkelon. I spent the night camped nearby and returned to photograph the next morning. To take this photo, I had to traipse about 100 meters through waist-high grass wet with dew to obtain a vantage point that obscured the road and a series of power lines running alongside the field. Israel is a small country and there are few places where the works of man don't intrude upon the natural scenery. The early morning light gives the grass a golden glow, which nicely complements the red poppies. I chose a wide angle lens to take in as much of the scene as possible, maximize depth of field, and emphasize the feeling of standing in a wide open space. The long cloud mass hovering over the field, another small stroke of luck, rounds out the composition.

Photo of the Week: Feb. 3, 2008

No story is complete without a few small details to add color to the bigger picture. Photographic details can also speak volumes about a larger story. Learning to see those details and extract them from the surrounding visual noise is one of the keys to honing picture-taking skills. This simple image jumped out at me as I explored my garden following two days of wind, cold rain, hail, and finally snow. The bigger pictures of whitened hillsides and rows of cars buried in newly fallen powder seemed less intriguing then this single nuance of a weather event that dominated our lives for three days. I composed the shot to isolate the glass ornament against a background of tree branches. Later, in Photoshop, I removed the yellow hues in the background to make it appear black and white. I used to practice the lost art of colorizing black and white photos and still admire this effect when done with care and subtlety in a few select images. The absence of color elsewhere in the photo makes the subject appear that much more striking, bold, and, I think, beautiful.